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Chap Achen

Informing Delivery Promises with B2B Capacity Management Microservices

Business-to-business (B2B) buyers consist of real people with specific expectations for your sales funnel. Like their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts, these buyers are increasingly looking to leverage e-commerce offerings to navigate your sales funnel.  

According to a 2023 McKinsey & Company analysis, B2B e-commerce is the most effective sales channel, preferred by 35 percent of buyers and outpacing in-person sales by nearly 10 percent.

The revenue potential for B2B e-commerce platforms is enormous, increasing every year since 2019 and is expected to eclipse $1.7 trillion by 2028.

Unfortunately, many buyers say they are receiving substandard customer experience, making it more difficult for e-commerce platforms to capitalize on this shift in customer preferences.  Collectively, 63 percent of B2B buyers say their customer experiences “fall short of what they know is possible.”

The stakes are high.

One B2B buyer survey found that 86 percent of respondents were willing to switch suppliers if they found a better buying experience elsewhere.

In response, B2B companies are investing in composable commerce capabilities to address channel shifts and customer expectations. This includes providing accurate delivery expectations at the top of the shopping funnel, which brings clarity to consumers but introduces complexity to B2B brands.

Accurate Delivery Expectations Go Beyond Shipping Zones 

Embracing e-commerce means trusting sellers to deliver the right products at the right time to the right location. However, delivery expectations extend beyond just shipping zones.

Setting expectations on delivery timeframes can be challenging when multiple nodes may be involved, assembly or service requirements, or manufacturing lead time components as part of the promising function.

Additionally, as buyers complete more self-serve sales on digital channels, the sales representative's institutional knowledge can no longer calculate the accuracy and delivery speed promise.

For B2B companies with complex fulfillment processes, that delivery promise is likely influenced by capacity constraints, which often fall outside the retailer’s direct control.

For example, capacity often comes from carriers (outbound and inbound), shipping labor, and service availability. Of course, all these dimensions can have variable capacity based on things like item type, cube, route density, and more.

There is good news.

As more B2B companies embrace composable commerce, you don’t need to look to your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Order Management System (OMS) to set expectations appropriately.

Instead, B2B sellers can look to a dedicated capacity microservice that your existing OMS/ERP and e-commerce engines can integrate with APIs.

That’s why we’ve built the Nextuple Capacity Management Service (NCM), a capacity service that can integrate with existing systems to track and communicate capacity effectively.

The capacity service can integrate with existing Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), and other enterprise systems that may keep track of capacity today while accommodating new capacity types that can be calculated based on manual inputs, uploads, or other attributes.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models increasingly integrated into capacity planning, Nextuple’s solution can also allow models to recommend capacity levels based on real-time data.

Here are some of the use cases our capacity microservice addresses:

  1. Warehouse Operations Capacity
    NCM lets you set capacity at any activity level inside your warehouse operations, encompassing picking, packing, loading, and other crucial tasks. It also provides detailed insights into capacity metrics, such as units processed per unit of time.
  2. Transportation Capacity
    NCM considers both Full Truck Load (FTL) and Less Than Truckload (LTL) capacities, providing insights into available truck capacity and scheduled availability. These capacities can be set by cube, type of truck asset, number of units, or a combination of these factors.
  3. Business Customer Receiving Capacity
    NCM enables businesses to factor in customer constraints, such as the ability to receive specific truckloads or cubic feet of goods per week.
  4. Service Capacity
    NCM allows you to define service types and capacity by service type at the node level to ensure you can synchronize product and service promises.
  5. Manufacturing Capacity
    NCM can integrate into your existing ERP, allowing you to factor in manufacturing capacity if you are promising against a make-to-order type product.
  6. Customizable Capacity Templates
    NCM offers customizable templates so businesses can define capacity parameters tailored to their unique requirements.
  7. Real-time Capacity Monitoring and Adjustment
    NCM's real-time monitoring capabilities help you remain agile in response to changing demands.
  8. Informing Promises with Precision
    NCM provides the foundational data necessary for making reliable customer commitments, including estimated delivery dates, shipping schedules, and more.
  9. Need for Speed
    NCM is engineered to handle high data volumes seamlessly and can process millions of order lines per hour without compromising performance.

A Capacity Case Study

NCM does more than promise a compelling capacity analysis. It delivers real results for B2B retailers, empowering you to provide the excellent customer experience your buyers demand.

For instance, a tool manufacturer wants to make informed delivery promises on its B2B website.

Its revenue is a mix of retailers buying into their own FCs, contract builders buying for large projects, and distributors buying for resale. The distribution side of the business is the lowest-margin sector.

A dedicated fleet is leveraged to control transportation costs with distribution customers, and delivery promises are informed dynamically based on the order size. This dedicated fleet is capacity-constrained by design so that utilization rates are high.

When distributors place orders, the expected lead time is informed by a combination of the fleet's capacity, the customer's receiving capacity, and the shipment zone. If the distributor's order size needs to be smaller, the lead time is based on the capacities of several contracted LTL carriers and the corresponding delivery address.

The tool manufacturer leverages outbound shipping capacity to factor into its delivery promise.

It also wants to ensure that distributors' sales channels are capped at a certain level in the case of outbound capacity issues. This capacity threshold is automatically set through a sales velocity signal ingested into the capacity management system.

As a result, the tool manufacturer can control its outbound shipping expenses while setting accurate expectations.

What's Your Capacity Opportunity

As expectations for accurate delivery information move up the shopping funnel and B2B buyers expect more B2C-like experiences, having a handle on your capacity to make, ship, deliver, and service your buyers is a key enabler in digital commerce.

With Nextuple’s Capacity Management Service, you can start doing just that.

We’ve helped complex organizations like yours make capacity-informed promises. Don’t let your OMS or ERP prevent you from making them, too. 


Chap Achen

Chap Achen Bio: Retail OMNI fulfillment leader with 25 years of experience. Drives product strategy at Nextuple to help retailers optimize fulfillment.